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Choosing to Shine

A few years ago, I started on a journey to practice shining more. Shining my talents, abilities, and forms of creative expression. For me, shining means stepping into something and not letting fear run the show. I came to see how often I shirked back from shining – out of fear. Fear of ego and fear of out-shining others.

In a little under 3-weeks, the culmination of my journey thus far will manifest in a solo spoken word performance and CD release party here in town. To say that I am nervous would be a remarkable understatement. But, as I’ve been sharing with folks lately, I’m proud of myself because despite having feelings of doubt and fear and uncertainty, I’m still doing it. I’m still moving forward, one scary moment at a time. My tracks are recorded and mastered; my CD’s are ordered; the gig is set; my booklet of lyrics is at the print shop. It’s happening!

If you’re interested in checking out my event page for this upcoming gig: https://spark.adobe.com/page/hC5Y8cQ32xv1e/

Something I’ve realized over the years is that fear isn’t rational, which is a big part of what makes it challenging to work with. If fear were a rational process, it would be fairly easy to talk our way out of it. But we all know that engaging in an intellectual dialog when it comes to a certain fear we have is futile. For example, let’s say we’re afraid of flying. Would it reduce your fear, even an iota, if someone were to give you the facts and statistics about how flying is safer than driving? No, probably not. Fear cannot be addressed in the head, it has to be addressed in the heart of our experience. In order to work with fear, we have to get out of our head and into our heart.

So that’s what I’ve been working on. Since fear lives in the head, I’ve been breathing in and practicing to exhale and delve deeper into the fragrant and calming waters of the heart. I’ve been practicing to use gentle and loving speech with myself: I see you fear. You are present and part of my experience AND I’m choosing not to let you run the show. You can hang out and all – but I’m choosing to shine.

I love that the following poem is so well-known. I’ve encountered it in a variety of places over the years – my most favorite spot being the middle school my stepson went to a few years ago, where an excerpt hung in large lettering on a banner in the hallway.

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Posted by on February 18, 2018 in Everyday Practice

 

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On Fear

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A week or so ago my husband Mike and I were discussing the topic of difficult emotions, in the context of our mindfulness practice. He mentioned being continually surprised by the common lack of mentioning fear, as one of the big prevailing emotions. Anger is referenced often, but seldom is fear spoken about. He posited that fear was, in fact, the root of all other difficult emotions. I agreed that anger, for instance, is not a root emotion, but a response to feelings of either hurt or fear. Most of what we feel arise as an emotion is rooted in another deeper layer of experience, often in our subconsciousness. But I never considered that fear may be what lies at the heart of all strong/challenging emotions. I took it as food for thought and have been chewing on it, so to speak, ever since.

When I first encountered the well-known quote by Marianne Williamson, “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure,” I didn’t connect with her words and quickly sloughed them off. But now, years later, I understand. While I don’t presume to know how often this is true for others, I do know that a couple of years ago I discovered her insight to be true for myself. During a month-long retreat at Deer Park Monastery, I came to realize that I had a strong tendency of holding myself back from shining, which is what I refer to as our capacity to emit a certain inherent radiance when acting with joy and confidence in who we are and what we’re doing. I realized that what sat at the root of my trepidation, was fear. Fear of ego, fear of offending others or making them feel uncomfortable, fear of growing apart from certain loved ones by outshining them. Fear of becoming powerful beyond measure.

Ever since this light bulb of self-realization turned on, I’ve been slowly transforming this fear, working to dissipate it into the clear waters of understanding, where freedom resides. I’m learning the difference between egoism and self-confidence, and how it’s easy to confuse and misinterpret them. I’m learning that in holding myself back from shining, I’m also holding myself back from connecting fully, with both myself and others. I’m learning that to not shine as brightly as I can is to perform a disservice to who I am. And I’m learning to let go of over care-taking for people, by trying to affirm responsibility for their reactions, feelings,  and experiences.

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I’m learning to embrace the abilities and talents that I possess and shine as brightly as I can. It’s an ongoing process that continues to unfold and deepen. The more time I invest in becoming good friends with myself the more I see clearly about how important it is to develop this relationship – to relinquish my fear and embrace who I am with inclusiveness and ease.

Imagine the possibilities if more of us were less afraid of shining our light, helping to usher others forward to claim their own strength and wisdom. We all have the capacity to be the ones we’ve been waiting for.

 
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Posted by on November 11, 2016 in Everyday Practice

 

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Looks Can Be Deceiving

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I recently signed up to participate in a local poetry slam that takes place this coming weekend. It’s an annual slam that happens around this time each year, as part of the Montana Book Festival. This will be my fifth slam. Doing these poetry slams is the most nerve racking thing I do with my time all year. But I sign up for two reasons: 1. It’s good practice for me in getting outside of my comfort zone. The more I practice, the easier it gets. 2. It’s good for me to practice shining my light of creativity and love for spoken word. I’ve taken it on as a diligent practice to step out of my fear of shining brightly – a fear I came to realize I had a couple of years ago while on a retreat at Deer Park Monastery.

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                         (Quote to the right by Marianne Williamson)

A few days ago I was at the Good Food Store, our local organic market. When I was in the checkout line the cashier, having remembered me from when she saw me in my first slam in the fall of 2014, said, “Oh, I saw that the poetry slam is coming up soon. Did you sign up?” I then proceeded to tell her about how I did sign up and that I was feeling pretty nervous about it, since it’s at a more popular venue this year and will probably be pretty packed. She was surprised that I was nervous and even more so to learn that the one she had seen me in two years ago had been my first slam. “You didn’t look nervous at all!” she remarked. I replied with a smile and said, “Yeah, it’s one of those don’t judge a book by its cover things.” She nodded and agreed and then quoted something a friend of hers had told her: Don’t judge someone’s outside by your inside. And after a pause, to let those words sink and settle in, I thought to myself: Good phrase!

It was then my turn to be surprised when she mentioned having remembered something I said from my first piece in the slam she saw me in all the way back in 2014, which had to do with busyness being a choice. She really appreciated that and said it was a good message. For someone to remember a quickly spoken few words I uttered on stage two years ago seems quite remarkable.

Similar encounters have happened to me a handful of times over the past couple of years: people I don’t know coming up to me and commenting about the slams they’ve seen me in and offering their appreciation of my pieces, each becoming equally surprised to find out that I am super nervous up on stage and that it’s a relatively new craft for me. I’ve written on this topic a few times before but it never ceases to amaze me about the strength and power of our perceptions and how often we are totally mistaken. Please don’t get me wrong, I have a lot of gratitude for those folks who’ve come up to me and offered their kind words, it’s a great and unexpected support – and I love that I live in a town where this sort of thing happens! It’s just funny how quickly we can judge a book by its cover, or a person’s outside by our inside. I am continually reminded to ask myself the question Thich Nhat Hanh poses as a practice tool: Am I sure? And it’s still amazing to me how often the answer is no.

 
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Posted by on September 20, 2016 in Everyday Practice

 

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